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What is Wellness?

Wellness is a word that’s on everyone’s lips and everyone’s mind these days, but what is it really? Why do we seem so obsessed with it? Why is it that tech companies seem able to sell us any number of apps and gadgets to measure every aspect of our physiological function? Is it the sense we have when everything is going well, as well as when we’re physically healthy? Can we have a sense of wellness when times are tough?

At its most basic and as defined by the WHO it is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The Global Wellness Institute adds three more dimensions, emotional, spiritual, including purpose, and environmental and those make sense too.

Most of us have heard of the psychologist Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. For anyone who needs a reminder, it’s a triangle with our basic physiological needs at the bottom, then safety needs, love and belonging next, and then self-esteem. The last two are the Californian sounding ‘self-actualisation’ which is to do with our growth needs, wanting to achieve our full potential as human beings, doing the best that we’re capable of doing. Later Maslow added transcendence, what brings the individual “peak experiences” in which they transcend their own personal concerns and see from a higher perspective. These experiences often bring strong positive emotions like joy, peace, and a well-developed sense of awareness 

I suspect this is where our interest in wellness comes in. Most of us have our basic needs met, though it’s not a case that they don’t bother us anymore.

Interestingly, much of the advice on wellness seems to focus on those basic needs, healthy food, exercise, sleep and they challenge us too. But there’s something more that keeps us looking, keeps us searching for that something that is going to unlock our best selves.

Bearing in mind that a lot of the time, life is tough one way or another, especially at the moment, how do we cultivate that sense of wellness or wellbeing? How do we concentrate on the upper levels of wellbeing? This requires us to embrace being proactive in pursuing wellness, preventative action, maintenance, taking individual responsibility and ultimately, thriving. For me, when I’ve got the basics in place, peace of mind is a large part, knowing that I can meet the challenges that come my way.

How do you pursue wellness and is it working? What are you missing? If what you need is some preventative action, a reset on your wellness, or starting to focus on your needs for growth, one of our retreats might be exactly what you need.

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And what do you want for Christmas?

I bet a lot of us get asked this at this time of the year and sometimes my heart sinks. What do I want that’s within the budget? It’s prompted the thought that there can be significant times in our lives when we don’t know what we want. The hardest people to buy presents for are those who have everything they need or want, but increasingly I’m coming across people who do have some idea what they want but feel hampered in getting it. Needless to say, it’s not another Christmas present!

Quite often, this occurs in the run-up to ‘retirement’ whatever that means for the individual. If they’re stepping back from full-time paid work, what this inevitably brings into focus is their relationship with their partner who may well have got their own life very well organised and doesn’t want it disrupted – the ‘I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch’ phenomenon.

I speak to many people at this stage in their lives who recognise that change is coming, have some ideas about what the next stage of their lives might bring, but it’s vague and not well thought through. Because it’s ‘retirement’ many don’t feel they can make an investment in themselves at this point – it’s just not worth it, they think. But life expectancy being what it is, if you retire at sixty, you might have another thirty years ahead of you, thirty years of what? Trailing around in the supermarket?  Not only that, but you’ve built up a considerable bank of skills, knowledge and experience – all to go to waste?

But what if you do invest in finding what you want for this next chapter of your life? And what if it’s different from what your partner envisaged? The management writer Charles Handy made the point that relationships need to be renegotiated at different stages of our lives. It makes sense when you think about it – how you need to be as a couple with small children is very different from when the children have upped and gone to university. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a risk. What if you find some quite big gaps opening up between you?

But if you don’t know what you want, you don’t have a starting point for negotiation and then it’s very easy to fall in with someone else’s wishes, to opt for a quiet life, not rocking the boat. But don’t forget about those thirty years. Not knowing what you want is not a recipe for happiness. This week we’ll be doing a virtual retreat with an engaged couple in the US working out what they want for themselves and together.

If you do want to invest in those thirty years, how about coming on one of our retreats? We give you space and time to start knocking those half-formed ideas into some kind of shape. Give yourself something to look forward to.

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